Attorney Patrik Griego Addresses Cannabis Abatement

Notice to Abate

Notice to abate. Photo posted in RHBB on June 24, 2018.

Attorney Patrik Griego, a partner in the Janssen Malloy law firm located in Eureka, came to the KMUD studios Friday, August 3. KMUD listeners had been invited to bring their questions regarding the Humboldt County cannabis abatement efforts currently underway. To date, more than 300 Notices to Abate a Nuisance have been sent to Humboldt County landowners demanding the cleanup of properties associated with unpermitted commercial cannabis cultivation.

In our series of interviews on the Notices to Abate, first Humboldt County Building and Planning Director, John Ford explained the abatement effort seeks to diminish the environmental impact of the unpermitted cultivation and to inhibit unfair competition for those cultivators who have become legally permitted. More recently, Supervisor Estelle Fennell said it is the landowner’s burden to prove the greenhouse is either empty or has another crop in it. Fennell also strongly encouraged people to abate and to sign a Compliance Agreement if they needed time to abate a grading nuisance.

In his hour of remarks Friday, Griego addressed a number of issues including the amount of the fines, the apparent arbitrary manner in which code enforcement is responding to his clients, and the concept that the county can allege a violation without significant evidence.

Griego talked about his concern as he councils clients because this matter does not have a local litigation history to rely upon so he is challenged in advising his clients because each landowner who receives an abatement letter faces substantial financial risk.

Griego says he has practiced law with Janssen Malloy in Eureka since 2004. Griego said, “We had not seen any abatement cases until a month or two ago in all my years of practice. It’s a very new thing for us.”

Nonetheless, Griego said he is advising his clients with abatement notices to both appeal and to abate everything possible within the ten-day timeline. Griego explained,

The very first thing I say is to get the appeal in within 10 days because if you don’t get your appeal in within ten days, the county is not allowing for any excuses right now. [Without the appeal filed,] we can’t challenge the fine amount; we can’t challenge who’s responsible for the alleged nuisance.

Griego explained,

[S]igning the appeal means the government can’t come in and abate it for you and charge you for that until the entire appeal process is over…[However,] it doesn’t necessarily foreclose them from collecting fines eventually.

And while every client has different circumstances, and each person who receives an abatement letter needs individualized legal counsel for their specific case, Griego generally advises his clients against signing a Compliance Agreement.

Once the Compliance Agreement is signed, the person who has signed it is obligated to fulfill its terms even if subsequent court action finds the county’s program has overreached in some way according to Defense Attorney Ed Denson who answered a few clarifying questions for this report.

Denson added, “Anyone who walks in there without legal advice and signs anything is making a big mistake. Why would you take your legal adversary’s word for it?”

However, Griego acknowledges,

There’s this idea of shock and awe. I can tell clients ‘this seems very egregious; I think we have some good defenses; I think the fine amounts are excessive; we may even challenge whether it’s a nuisance, I don’t think the notice is sufficient.’ We have lots of good defenses, but at the same time, the client faces, that if we are wrong, that at $10,000 a day for 90 days, there will be a $900,000 lien against their property. That’s a really risky decision to make. [The county] made the stakes so high that people are afraid to fight.

Griego said the worst thing a person can do is not respond. Griego feels everyone who makes an honest effort will eventually come to a satisfactory outcome.

Fine Amounts

“I think there is a very good argument that the maximum penalty that any county can ever impose for a nuisance abatement is $1000.“ Griego notes that counties do not have statutory authority to set fines as cities do. And he further adds that Humboldt County’s code says that violations of the commercial cannabis ordinance are criminal misdemeanors. California state law, according to Griego, puts the maximum fine for a misdemeanor at $1000 per violation.

Griego looked to other counties to see how their abatement programs work. He noted that in Napa County, the county will initiate an abatement when people operate a winery without permits. The first violation is $100 a day, the second is $200 a day, the third and any more are $500 a day each.

Griego said the amount of the fines is going to be challenged in the near term.

This idea that you can get up to a $900,000 fine within 90 days; that people … need to give [the county] $30,000 right away or actually lose their homestead is going to be challenged right away. I am hopeful the courts will determine these are excessive fines.

Greigo added,

People’s means…are supposed to be taken into consideration by a hearing officer….I think the Board of Supervisors, judges, and hearing officers are not going to want, when it really comes down to it, to take these people’s properties. It sounds good in theory to have these threats that you might lose your home, but I think politically, they are not going to want to do that.

Another consideration besides financial means is the physical ability to comply with an abatement order. Griego said he has a client with a physical illness who is not currently able to get up and take down structures. Griego said, “We did go in [to the county] and argued ‘they physically could not do the things you have asked them to do.’ The county did eventually work with us.”

Burden of Proof

Regarding the idea that having a greenhouse on one’s property is sufficient evidence that a cannabis nuisance needs to be abated, Greigo said,

That makes no sense. If the county is going to go to a hearing and say that cultivation is occurring in a greenhouse, they have the burden of affirmatively proving that. They cannot simply say to a hearing officer, ‘Well, what else is growing in there? Of course it has to be [marijuana.]’   I think the hearing officer would laugh in their face.

Griego continued,

Even if they were correct, which I don’t believe they are, the burden of proof would switch as soon as we have … a [client] say ‘there isn’t cannabis’ or if there was cannabis, ‘we removed it within the ten days you gave us to remove it.’

At that point, we would have met any possible burden of proof we have. At that point, it would go back to the county to somehow show that [not to be true]. ….The county has shown no interest in doing that. When we have had clients say there was no cannabis or that we removed it within ten days, they haven’t gone out …to check that so far.

Acting Reasonably Is Key

A woman who received an abatement letter said she asked the Code Enforcement officer “[H]ow would one even think it’s reasonable to have grading abated, or even looked at by an engineer, within ten days?” She reported she was encouraged to sign a compliance agreement to get the time she needed.

However, she said she filed an appeal because she does not want to pay a fine for cultivating cannabis when she did not do that this year. She continued,

When I was speaking to the Code Enforcement officer, he was really under the impression that regardless of whether I could prove myself innocent on the marijuana charge, that I would still be fined [for] that because they had put it forth. That is one of the things I feel is so outrageous.

Griego said he had heard that story from others. He said, “They are taking a very strange position on that.”

He continued,

If it is just cannabis, without a grading [charge], then they’ve said, ‘ok, you’ve dealt with that in the ten days and it’s over.’ But they’ve actually said if it’s cannabis and grading, and you do the cannabis, which is all you can do in the ten days, it’s still $10,000 for the cannabis because even though you did it in ten days, because you also have the grading and you couldn’t do both and we are not going to eliminate one.’…and the county is actually saying now, ‘We won’t even go out to inspect whether you’ve done the cannabis or taken down the buildings until you provide us proof that you’ve remedied all the grading.’

Griego argued,

I think the answer is going to be that if you’ve done what you can for the grading, if you’ve started the permit process, and you are reasonably trying to proceed with that then you would have a very good argument [in court] that you have, in essence, abated. You have done everything you can do.

Bonnie Blackberry is arranging a community meeting on August 23rd at the Mateel Community Center at 6 p.m.  Supervisor Fennell and Planning and Building Director Ford are both scheduled to attend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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71 comments

  • Estelle might as well be called “ lame duck “ at this point.

      • People against Humboldt County some of the mom and pops are the best neighbors that you can have are being persecuted I am calling judgement down ignorance is no excuse for breaking GOD’S law be good to each other. Code enforcement 5.0 a lot of the damage you have already done you cannot even begin to pay back

        • Bridge ville and Carlotta swayback Road just got served sht going down ordinance fire leaving more devastation

          • Out of control Ordinance fire Coming to a town near you be careful southern Humboldt well they have the nerve 2 put these out right before Estelle gets here for her meeting at the mateel soon Mom and Pops in your backyard going down in flames

            • After the hope is empty out of Humboldt CO. How much love well remain when reality sets in the ordinance fire is taking its toll rent going down and with it property value people have been moving out of the area for a while now more as time goes by the non Prophets and struggling businesses shutting down the emperor wears no clothes for reason

    • Pretty sure she has 2 more years before she even has to face reelection.

  • Vote Estelle out. Your fired.

  • Also, an administrative judge rules on these cases. When people asked griego who that is, he said “Georgia law students!’ Literally law students will be deciding the fate of the people of Humboldt county. Do we think that is acceptable ???

  • AMEN BE GONE..

  • It is pretty insane when they lay it out. Unpermitted winery’s receive fines in the 100’s not tens of thousands. This is an obvious money grab from the county that is structured around fear and a clear violation of civil rights and privacy. It is also clear the government is corrupt at any level local, state, or federal. They are all corrupt and for the betterment of themselves and not the communities as a whole. How they could think this would have a positive impact on the community I do not know. What the hell are they going to do with the properties they steal? The only reason these rural properties had so much value is because you could grow cannabis. Do they really think that they will be able to sell these properties?

    • What are they going to do with the properties they steal? The same thing they did back in the day, divide the spoils among the tiny group of incestuous good old boys who run the County. Der. Maybe a new creepy Owl Sanctuary “killing of care” cult location could go up around Panther Gap, with snack runs to Garberville?

    • They will most certainly be able to sell these properties. They may only get $1,000 per acre but they will sell them just the same. Easy to turn a nice profit when it cost them nearly nothing to take the properties. Already seeing listings as low as $600/acre.

      • so far just the 2 raided in rancho yesterday. if the county wants to take on massive liability then yes the can sell them all, but if they don’t, then just the 2 yesterday. unless they are leaving something out of their press release on purpose which may very well be the case.

      • Why’s this guy puffin?

        There nothing for 600 an acre lol ware are u looking???? Prices still 5000-10,000 an acre everyware in Southern Humboldt

    • Agreed. There needs to be an amendment or adapt the permit process so that more people can become permitted. I’m sure more people would if they could. The deadlines and other hoops were unparalleled and unobtainable by many but easily done by some ppl (not all but most) who could bribe, outta towners, the most egregious illegal growers who could afford the permit process. There should of been a residency and at the very least at first, only permit residents who have lived in Humboldt 10yrs or more.

  • I strongly recommend hiring an attorney from out of the area. there is plenty of history in 2008 Patrik. this is extortion stint 2.0, not 1.0. plenty of letters went out in 2006 and it all came crashing down in 2010 when the unit was disbanded and the department head was sued in civil court and fled to Florida. hopefully a REMIF claim rep is paying attention. nothing went very far because the DA and Hagen had no faith in them winning. I would assume the current group will learn after REMIF forks out several millions.

  • They definitely pressured me into signing the compliance agreement. Bob Russell stated to me that if I didn’t, it would be a big fuck you to their face. And while I didn’t mind giving them a big fuck you, they did allow me to harvest and carry on activities (this was last October) as long as I played ball. So being one of the first to receive the letter and not wanting to hire a lawyer, I played ball and signed their letter.

    • did they say you had to sign it before consulting with an attorney?

      • No they made an implicit threat that other agencies could get involved if I made a stink or contested the fines.

        • I would make notes of everything and date/initial each page. no agency in the State of California is allowed to solely use satellite imagery to make determination of civil code or impose a civil fine. this stems from logging industry lobbyist.

          • the misadventures of bunjee

            Agencies can’t solely use satellite imagery? Tell that to CalFire, when they do their yearly “assessment” of “habitable” structures to send out CalFire “fee” bills. I’m familiar with several people that keep having to prove to them that a woodshed or awning they put up over an RV is in fact an awning, and not a new addition to a summer home. Or a MIL unit. Even the county has admitted that it’s safer to use imagery than actual visits, especially when it comes to “assessing” grow properties.

        • I believe you. This happened to friends of mine near Honeydew who received the letter last year. They were told by the planning department that to not sign the agreement would be seen as being adversarial and that they would be turned over to the state CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies. It was obviously a strong-arming and manipulative move on the part of the county planning department. They signed of course, being left with no other options. Result- they scheduled an on-site inspection that was done in January and were signed off as being clear and free as they did not have any marijuana growing in the fully enclosed greenhouse. I believe they paid some thousands of dollars of initial fine for the wonderful service and strong-arming by the planning department.

    • silly human race

      you signed the letter, what’s your complaint? you didn’t want to sign the letter?

      • I’m not complaining, just stating what happened. I said before, I don’t think is a bad move by the county. It’s definitely a lot smarter than going out and chipping everything. I also said before that I think the county needed to do something to up the fear factor, their are way too many idiots out there in the woods and I support thinning them out. I don’t tend to think of myself as one of the ‘bad ones’ but I’m not whining about it either.. I took my risk and paid my fine. All good. Just telling my story

      • Yours is no disgrace.

  • Senior High Econ

    Bate n’ snitch

  • Pharmstheproblem

    Abatement notice for grading, I’ve turned in my conversion permit and the county signed off and calfire signed off but the idiot building planner said this is intensive grading I’ll have to look into it more, mind you they already signed off on it…wtf Not to mention they did not have a record of it and it was sent to them on several occasions.. John ford and his crew are not judge and jury as they think they are… The building planner even said that’s no place to grow cannabis although it’s zoned rural ag land and my permit states forest to ag conversion with nothing stipulating no cannabis… He needs to keep his opinion to himself.

  • There is a long standing belief that if you grow any cannabis you are filthy rich. The dispensaries have acted on this belief for years by lowballing the grower and then selling for the same price that the black market charges. The county definitely thinks all growers have millions, the permit fees, the compliance demands for permitting, and now the abatements are all excessive. This county is ready to permit enough farms to provide California with twice the herb that California can consume, and Estelle keeps telling us that we all will be able to get jobs. . . with rich growers! Put a fork in it!

    • WillSmithFreshPrinceOfHumCO

      Yeah and what’s going to happen when the state stops issuing licenses? They are going to cap out at some point then there will be thousands of people that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for county permits that will not get state permits and will be forced to shut down or compete in the illicit market. To think CA is going to be like OREGON and not cap out on state licenses is ridiculous. The state is already planning for over supply which is an inevitability. Just because you paid the county thousands and signed compliance agreements or obtained permits does not mean that you will automatically get a state permit. My heart goes out to the good people that are getting extorted. The fact is that it’s not just cartel growers and mega growers getting the shaft but good honest folks that care about the land and their communities are facing losing everything in the face of greed. they didnt have the resources or the heart to try to be big business, they just wanted to get by and live a simpler life now they are being pushed out. To all those of you that favour big business and big industry at the expense of the environment, nature, and those around you. Karma will meet you with a compliance agreement you cannot escape!!! In this life time or the next.

      • Buck up little camper. Its called change. The Cali voters wanted legalization, they got it. Assimilate or be destroyed.

        I’ve seen enough. Shut it down, bury the hatch, sell the land and dispose of him.

        • WillSmithFreshPrinceOfHumCO

          I do not need to do either, as I do not produce commercial cannabis. No 100 foot greenhouses in my backyard. The change was inevitable, not saying I do not accept the way things are but I also feel for those being effected by the hypocrisy and degradation of civil rights and privacy. It is called EMPATHY why don’t you try it.

          • The county and code enforcement are acting like a bunch of thugs make sure you document what they are telling you to do take as many pictures and recordings when you can I know they have pushed you into trouble times keep good accountability of what they are making you dismantle as God is my witness we will stand with you in trouble times much love

          • Plenty of empathy for the folks trying to get legal.

        • So, do you get paid by the post or by the hour?

        • the cali voters wanted to be able to buy and smoke pot… the politicians snuck in a whole lotta RED TAPE which was not what the voter wanted. The End.

  • Why are they making us tear out our raised beds after the greenhouse is removed? A waste of good soil and vegetable garden use. Doesn’t make sense.

    • “A permanent structure on real property is a structure that is placed on the land for the foreseeable future that is affixed to the ground.”

      it doesn’t sound like raised beds are affixed to the ground. keep in mind that the guy that got the $12,000 fine for the Costco carport on Myrtle during extortion stint 1.0 use anchor bolts. but his fine was tossed anyway and one could assume the public files have been destroyed. by its still in the media archives.

  • Concerned Business Owner and Resident

    Yes on bringing in lawyers and media from OUT OF TOWN. This county is too small and everyone knows everyone else. Get some outside eyeballs on this!

  • This will get challenged in court and it will get thrown out. The county will spend millions defending themselves while only making a few million off of it, or nothing. It would be funny if they had to pay everybody back for all the money they’ve extorted!

    Also, what’s up with them sending letters to tiny mom and pop growers in Sohum when there are people growing acres of weed on the elsewhere in the county. There wouldn’t be so much backlash from the community if they went after the really big guys first. By going after the mom and pops they are mobilizing the sohum community. They are actually shooting themselves in the foot. Way to go county! Another brilliant move!

  • Democrat elected and appointed government picking on the people that elected them, the ultimate betrayal. Good job Humboldt county the environment will win if you stay the course. The people that put you in place, drug use, crime, over population, illegal economic activity and ty died shirts not so much.Growers Just be thankful your not a white South African Farmer right now,but please keep whining it’s being tears to my eyes.

  • Amendment 14- No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    In other words, the burden is on the state to prove that it is marijuana in your greenhouse. But guess what, your overlords don’t give a shit about the Constitution that they swore an oath to uphold….suckas!

    Amendment 8-Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    Would anybody actually try and argue that $10,000 a day was not excessive? Why yes they would. And incredibly, despite being repeatedly raped by the government, you Democrats just keep demanding more of the same….more government. You will surely get what you asked for. Unfortunately, so will the rest of us.

  • Does anyone remember the Code Enforcement debacle that happened back in the 90’s? What is different now that allows them to do basically the same thing?

    • Yes the planning department on steroids and other fucked-up drugs they actually killed a young man and they were going around lining up families with children pointing AR-15 at them because their dwellings were unpermitted making people take down sheds and other buildings now they’re coming in with the slew of different agencies

  • Yep hit Mom and Pop’s in my area, meanwhile down the road in the middle of town they just got away with millions. WTH? The big guys right out in the open……..

  • Back in the 80s when we brought numerous stream, road and habitat violations by PALCO and Simpson/Green Daimond to the counties attention they just shrugged their shoulders and laughed at us.

    Now they’re like so fucking concerned. Where were they when even greater damage to the environment was being done by industrial loggers, and where are they now as it is still being done to this day.

    Nowhere in sight.

    Sad.

    PS if your concerned about growers pesticide use, check out Green Diamond’s.

  • What do people mean by mom n pop,as far as plant count and marijuana goes.. just to take a tally. My personal take is 25 plants and that not being the mainstay of the property or livelihoods.. these days at least. I know a time when 25 big plants was a lot of loot. So, just curious what y’all think?

    • WillSmithFreshPrinceOfHumCO

      Well because the industry has shifted if you go by the corporation “Flow kana” which recieved 20 million just recently as an investment which aims to be the “whole foods” of sustainable cannabis. Their definition of a small craft farmer as per interview of the CEO on KMUD is anywhere between 500 and 3,000 pounds per annual basis. My definition of small time is 50-150 high quality craft units per year. More specifically a “mom n pop” grower is a person or person(s) who grows cannabis sustainably to get by on a year by year basis in accordance to their resources and who’s mission is to sustain their homestead and not to acquire capital gains to obtain more property and resources to obtain more capital from growing more cannabis to acquire more resources ect….

  • One thing that seems different with the new abatement/ eradication actions is the increased paticipation of Fish and Wildlife in the process. The targeting of specific watersheds has a lot to do with the cumulative negative impact on the overall scene. When the creek dries up its a red light on water use. One of the ongoing problems around pot growing is all the lying that has and continues to be endemic to the process. Almost nobody admits to the amount they grow. I think we’ve all known small time growers that were swept up in raids on neighbors growing far more pot than they admitted. It appears from some of the comments here that truth is still a spotty commodity when pot is being discussed

    • They are using fish and game because they have a special Clause that allows them to trespass on your property if they think a violation is occurring without a warrant. Once on your property they can get a warrant for any violation they find.

      https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/3d/158/1104.html

    • I suppose that this stretching the truth thing is symptomatic of our government and parts of corporate culture as a whole. Look at the most powerful and wealthiest segments of any society, there’s a whole lotta “do as we say, not as we do,” kind of moral control grid, that we all know is deceitful at best. So when people begin to act like venture capitalists, and king pins, or whomever has that corporate bullying and psychopath mentality. We’ve been indoctrinated to live like slaves, worshiping our feudal overseers.
      But, hey, work hard in school and get good grades, and spend a majority of your life indentured and/ or dealing with multiple layers of encumbrances that keep you running that hamster wheel…. don’t forget to spray round up on them roses, we have to keep up the glyphosate levels in the ground water.

  • Patrick griego is a sellout

    They doubled their rates to growers once it came time to go for state licence. Halfway through the proccess. This sounds like an add for more business.
    Go to out of town lawyers
    They will do it better for 1/4 the price

  • If you have a parcel in Humboldt County you’re automatically suspect of cultivating. No other proof needed.

    BTW that is sarcasm.

    We have abdicated our rights to the bureacracies.

  • Creeker..Section 331-11(a)(4) of the County Code exempts planter boxes less than four feet tall. So does Section 105.2.4 of the California Building Code. Code Enforcement is based on fear, lies, coercion and intimidation. The Grand Jury should immediately begin an investigation.

  • Patrick Griego is doing a better job at generating business for himself and Janssen Malloy, than he does at representing his clients.

  • For some reason the County thugs steer clear of the massive Bulgarian grows. Any ideas why that is? Afraid because they’re all armed to the teeth? Can’t speak the language? What is it?

    • The Bulgarians are backed by international criminal syndicates, and are heavily armed. The County is picking off the weaker growers first.

      • Fwiw, when I read the list of Abatement notices for the first article, there were a strong representation of names that appear to match the description “Eastern European.”

        Especially in the ettersberg area.
        Who knows for sure though, because I didn’t talk to anyone from the list.

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